Second grade students got excited when they heard they would soon be going on a field trip. They told their parents about the upcoming field trip. Parents received and returned permission slips about the field trip. The school newsletter referred to the field trip in a one-page article. The field trip was highlighted in huge letters on the school marquee in front of the building: SECOND GRADE FIELD TRIP THURSDAY.
Yes, it was a field trip all right. It was a field trip except for one thing. There was no field involved in the field trip. These students went to a local pizza establishment to observe and learn about the operation of a local business, to see how pizza is made, to see what goes on in the back room, to watch pizza created from start to finish. They observed employee cooperation and responsibilities, division of labor, math in action, customer service, advertising, added value, and checking for understanding on the telephone.
These young students experienced an exciting adventure filled with learning and wonder-and pizza. We do not question the value of this experience. Nor do we question the decision to take a fourth grade class to the cemetery to learn about local history, or to take the high school students to Dow Chemical to see and hear predictions about the future.
Yes, there is value in field trips. We do not challenge that. What we do question is what we choose to call it. These trips were called field trips fifty years ago when most of them were in a field. We call them field trips today because we called them field trips last year. And we have done that for over fifty years now. It’s past time to come up with some new names.
What you call this adventure matters. Change the name and you change how you and the students think about it. Change the name and you change how you and the students see it. Change the name and you could well change how you and the students experience it.
Name it to frame it. Discovery Adventure, Business Examination or Pizza Exploration are names that frame the pizza activity as something that leads to discovery, examination or exploration. The specific name will give students a new way to think about the upcoming trip, a concept to focus on during the trip, and a theme on which you can structure the debriefing following the trip.
The fourth grade teacher taking her class to the local cemetery can position it as Our Historical Adventure or as Our Fact-Finding Mission. The high school teacher going to Dow Chemical might call the trip A Step into the Future or Information Acquisition Hunt.
The name matters. It puts a descriptive frame around the trip that helps us all see it differently. Imagine a first grade class going to the apple orchard. Students, parents, the administration, and you will all think differently about it depending on whether you call it a field trip, a fall fling, an outdoor adventure, or an outdoor learning opportunity.
Don’t settle for what we used to do fifty years ago. Change the name of your next out-of-the-classroom learning opportunity. Choose a name that gives it the flavor, focus, and frame that specifically fits your purpose.
Chick Moorman and Thomas Haller are the coauthors of The Teacher Talk Advantage: Five Voices of Effective Teaching. They are two of the world's foremost authorities on raising responsible, caring, confident children. They publish a free monthly e-zine for educators and another for parents. To sign up for the newsletters or learn more about the seminars they offer teachers and parents, visit their websites today: www.chickmoorman.com and www.thomashaller.com
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